Home parenting what I learned from our Collin Kartchner night, and thoughts on a social media family pact

what I learned from our Collin Kartchner night, and thoughts on a social media family pact

by Shawni
Ok, here goes.
Social media has been heavy on my mind lately, and also my heart.  I’ve talked about it HERE and HERE, and so much has happened before and after and in between those posts that just keeps me thinking and thinking.
And worrying too. (I think it’s pretty interesting I just came across this post HERE clear back in 2012…we were worried about social media clear back then…it’s not new…and also HERE a couple years ago when I talked about how we need to be “technology trainers”).  It continues to be more and more addicting as it sucks away life from so many of us.  I know that sounds dramatic, but it’s really true.
I keep waiting for the perfect words and thoughts to post about it…waiting for that moment when I’ve gathered all the info. to make a powerful point.  But this is something that keeps morphing and changing and “powerful points” keep coming at me from different directions.  So although we have not come to the “one-solution-fits-all” deal (that I knew we wouldn’t, yet kept somehow hoping would materialize), I’m determined to keep posting about the journey.
So here I am to place my latest thoughts on the altar of things-to-think-long-and-hard-about.
You know you’re supposed to be worrying about something if it keeps coming to the forefront of your mind over and over and over again…always accompanied by a pricking feeling to do something about it.
I know there are lots of fellow-worriers out there.  Ever since I started talking about social media here there have been countless emails, comments, texts going around asking the same kinds of questions.  Social media is taking over our children (and often us right along with them), and we must take some action.
Together, if we keep this conversation going, we have power to change the trajectory of the negative impacts of social media at least in our own families, and hopefully we can help spread it like wildfire that will have the potential to help many.
Now, I want to be clear that I do not think social media is evil.  On the contrary it can be enlightening and beautiful.  But the caveat there is that it “can be.”  Just because something has some good points though, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be weary of it.
SO here I go.
Let’s start with this picture just to set the mood:
It’s not a perfect picture…kind of a weird angle, crazy shadows…but to me it epitomizes what childhood should look like.  Those girls gathered every wheeled form of transportation they could find, rigged them together somehow, and had a ball parading through the neighborhood.  This kind of stuff happened all the time.
Sure, creative stuff like this still happens today, but all too often the landscape is changing for kids this age.  Lots of roaming the neighborhood, imagination and creativity has been traded in to sit on a couch, often right next to each other, looking at a screen.
And little by little that kind of transition needs to be reversed.
I mentioned my conversation with my friend a while back where we decided to gather some of the people we had talked about social media with in the past and read a book (The Tech-Wise Family), then get together to talk about it kind of “book club” style (I talked about the background that led to this back HERE…and please don’t be sad if you’re local and didn’t know about it…we just invited people we had spoken with specifically about this recently…anyone is welcome to join as we go forward!  We still plan to meet up again in the Fall.).  We gathered together and had such an enlightening discussion.  We went around the room, introduced ourselves, talked about the ages of our kids and what kinds of things we’re dealing with in the social media realm, talked deeper about the things that stood out to us from that book, and learned SO MUCH.

That is a group of powerful ladies right there…and also a lot of food…ha!

But there was something so empowering about the fact that we were all so on the same page.  So many of the same concerns, some solutions, some new ideas, but mostly just power in numbers.

It just so happened that a guy named Collin Kartchner was coming to town to do a seminar all about social media right after we met up.

He’s this guy who is trying to bring to light all the crazy stuff social media is leaving in it’s wake (suicide, depression, ADHD, addictions, etc.).  Several blog readers made me aware of him on one of the posts where I’ve talked about social media thoughts before.  It was a little counter-intuitive for me to follow him since I was in the process of severely limiting Instagram, because lots of his stories have so much to say…see all those little dashes at the top of the screen below?

Yeah, that’s a LOT of stuff.  But I’ve skimmed over them in the last couple months and there has been a LOT of stuff in there that I was baffled by.

And that’s just one post…there are lots of other good articles referred to like this one:

(That one really is so good… HERE is a link to read it…things we can’t do when we are buried in a screen.)

And other interesting things like this:

He is a little on the “worst-case scenario” side, but I think in many ways that’s exactly where we need to be in this day and age.  We can’t bury our heads in the sand.  We need to be aware of what’s happening out there.  Perfectly “normal” and seemingly well-adjusted kids are starting to slip down a slippery slope of depression and loneliness.  The comparison game is in full force.  And it’s not just a wive’s tale.  I’ve seen it in my own kids.  I’ve seen it in my good, beautiful, on-the-ball friends.
It is real.
So although this seminar was in the very midst of all the end-of-school madness, I’m so glad a bunch of us were able to make it work.  There were three parts to that evening:
1)  It was great to hear Collin Kartchner.  He gave a lot of stats told some good stories, drew us in.

2)  The keynote speaker was a lady named Katey McPherson, and I thought she was phenomenally in-tune with what’s going on.

Here are some of Katey’s slides:

I showed this one before, but it was pretty poignant to me and worth posting again:

I loved this thought:

(None of that happens when you’re glued to a screen.)

This smartsocial.com has lots of useful information about all the main apps kids use:

This chart shows the apps in order of how much “junk” can be associated with them…red being the apps that you should ban like there’s no tomorrow:

She gave some recommendations for helping limit screen time:

Some of my other favorite things I took notes on from her:

  • Help cultivate dignity in kids.  This happens when we have frank discussions and let them into our concerns…and do things like formulating a “technology contract” together.  (the one we came up with for our family years ago is HERE…but we should really constantly revise that thing).
  • Role-play with kids.  Helps them learn to stick up for themselves if someone is bullying them, trying to get them to send inappropriate things, etc.
  • Hang on to the relationship.  “The best app is YOU.”  We need to be present.  We need to be what they go to for direction and help, not peers where they’re just trying to seek attention.
  • Let them fail in a safe environment.  Sometimes we take too much control, we need to let our kids make some of the decisions and learn from the bad ones while they’re under our own roofs.
3)  Then there was a panel for Q & A and that was perhaps the very best part.  The panel consisted of a couple police officers, a detective who deals with underage sex crimes (that stem from pictures sent over the internet), a counselor who deals specifically with depression…
…and then in the middle of that mix was a regular teenager.  That teenager was the most helpful…oh boy she sure spilled the beans about a lot of things kids do on their phones and had the whole audience (of 600+) gasping at times.  She explained all about apps kids use the most, the ones that are really dangerous, explained things like what a “finsta” Instagram account is to those in the audience who didn’t know (it’s a “fake” Instagram account…my kids have them that I follow and theirs are pretty funny, but I guess lots of secretive, not-so-good things can also happen there), she explained about the “for your eyes only” part of snapchat and some other things that had parents’ eyes bugging out.
I love that one of the police officers told a story about how one of his teenagers “earned” a phone at an earlier age as the others because she demonstrated so much transparency and responsibility and respect.  Sometimes we give phones to kids without any preface or preparation which is a disservice.

Loved gathering with all these good women when it was over:

The next night Collin Kartchner and his wife spoke to parents and their kids.
Grace had to work, but I figured it would be great to bring Claire.  And I will tell you, it was like serious pulling teeth to get her to go!  She was SO annoyed at me that I wanted to take her.  But when she realized I wasn’t budging she recruited some friends who were excited to go, and suddenly realized this wasn’t going to be so bad after all.
Collin told some interesting stories and pulled all those kids in that auditorium in from the very start.  His wife told the story that Claire said hit her the most.  She talked about how, a few years ago, as a successful small Internet business owner, mother to some great kids, and wife to someone she was in love with, she should have been over-the-moon happy.  But that she was immersed in social media and she found herself in a dark place.  She said that her dad had passed away when she was fifteen, an obviously extremely sad situation, but that there she was, a grown woman all those years later with everything she had ever wanted and was, in many ways, more sad then than she was as a young teenager who lost her dad.  She explained when she pulled away from social media and comparing herself to others her life changed dramatically.  It was a pretty powerful story.
Claire and her friends were pretty happy they had come.  This was supposed to be a video of Claire telling me how much she loved it, but I took a picture rather than a video on accident…ha!

You get the idea though.

Those kids even wanted to stay well after the thing was over to meet Mr. Kartchner.

They crack me up.

That was a powerful night for me, because it helped Claire realize in such a positive way, that it wasn’t just me being crazy about all our discussions about the downside of social media (she had had some good eye-rolls going on about that lately!).  I loved hearing her explain it all to Grace a little later, and loved our following discussions.

Ok, so that’s a LOT of info. thrown out there.  See why I have waited to put this together for so long?

There’s so much to say.

So much to think about.

In closing, let’s go back to that teenager on that panel the first night.  She told a story about how her mom took her phone away and how she found an old one in a drawer and was able to get around the controls on it.  She explained that even when kids get their phones taken away, or apps removed, even with all the best parental controls in effect, kids are smart.  If there’s a will there’s a way.

Which solidified my feelings that the most important defense against the “dark side” of social media is to talk.  Talk, talk, talk.  Discuss.  Be open.  And love.  I know that seems too simple in many ways, but one thing that really stuck out to me that they said was that “kids want to be seen, heard and loved.  With social media they can get all that in 20 seconds” (posting a sad photo on Instagram, tweeting out a plea for attention, sending something they think will make people love them on snapchat).

Our kids want/need attention any way they can get it, even if it’s negative attention.  If they’re getting it from posting crazy/inappropriate/attention-seeking things on technology oh they’ll get it…from their peers as well as from getting attention from their parents (if they find out).

But if WE as parents can give them more of that…if we can “see” them more, “hear” them more, and show our love though communication and discussions and respect and letting them somehow keep their dignity, how positive that can be!  We also need to help them build their own confidence from those four most essential things in that slide up there:  they need movement, nature, real human connections, and physical touch (love that they had a mom and her daughter demonstrate how long an 8-second hug is…and how powerful that kind of connection is).

We stood around the counter in the kitchen, my girls and I that next morning (Dave was out of town) and talked.  The room filled up with love as everyone gave their say, and we made a little pact.  Different from our formal “contract,” this time it was just a simple pact.  I promised to listen more.  And to “be there” more.  And they promised in turn to share more, and be more transparent.  We gathered my mom in too (who was in town) and of course the girls wanted Bo to join in, but we made a promise there that morning in the form of a little pact handshake.

So it has to happen right?


But we are on the right track.  And it feels good.

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Christine June 12, 2018 - 11:23 am

Thank you. We've been living our own struggle with social media, and I've closely followed your posts about it. This one I especially appreciate, and I've taken notes from it. Last night during FHE we reviewed President Nelson's devotional and I found that one of my daughters is already doing a 7-day social media fast! So we are making progress. Thanks for the support.

kms June 12, 2018 - 11:31 am

I think you are swayed by motivational speakers. Rock and roll/heavy metal, phones in the bedroom, video games, dungeons and dragons, computers and the idiot box (tv) were the dangers of our generation or the generation of our parents. I think connecting social media to this is like connecting immunizations to autism. People want it to fit as the cause. You can even find things to quote about it. Different childhood isn’t a bad childhood. It’s just different. Anything too much or too little isn’t healthy. Eating too little or too much, exercising too little or too much.

cheryl cardall June 12, 2018 - 8:14 pm

There is some pretty credible research coming out that anxiety and yes even suicide attempts can be correlated with social media usage. Suicide rates for teens have tripled in the last 7-10 years

A June 12, 2018 - 9:17 pm

I think that's over simplifying it. Rock and roll, phones in bedrooms, and video games (even TV!) didn't bring sex trafficking, pornography, and nudity straight into your palm where your parents couldn't see it. I'll admit that computers did, but most keep those in family areas. This is an unlimited pass to the best and worst of what humanity can be. Plus, you see only the good in others' lives. For a teen, I can't imagine anything that would make me feel more alone.

cheryl cardall June 13, 2018 - 4:05 am

Agreed June. None of us have lived as teens with social media and have no idea the pressures and anxieties it produces for these kids

Shawni June 13, 2018 - 6:17 am

Amen to these responses.

Libby June 12, 2018 - 12:29 pm

This is a great post – thank you. My mind is swirling with thoughts and I'm writing this comment on the fly – always risky!

I grew up in the 70's and there was a book called "The Plug-in Drug" about the influence TV had in our lives. TV watching being passive. I'm thinking about the difference between TV watching and social media: the TV(s) were in public places in the home and everyone in the house knew if someone had the TV on and what they were watching. I'll also add that phones were corded landlines and I remember pulling the phone cord hard so that I could talk "privately" at the top of the basement stairs with the door closed.

The point of this is that parental oversight of technology use was relatively easy. Now we carry the technology with us and it is much harder to have oversight.

I was a single parent for 13 years and it was A LOT OF HARD WORK to interact with my child rather than plug him into technology. I believed in toys without batteries, limited TV time, etc. When my parents gave us a car DVD player for Christmas, I asked them to return it. I thought it was better for us to talk, sing, listen to audio books – experiences we could share rather than me driving and my son watching a movie. It was exhausting and I totally understand why many parents use technology to entertain.

I love my laptop and my cell phone so I don't want to come across as anti-technology. However, I think it is so important to raise our children with human interaction as the primary focus rather than technology.

Thanks again for sharing your discoveries on this path about parenting and technology.

Shawni June 13, 2018 - 6:19 am

I'm sure that hard work to interact with your child has paid off in so many ways. Love these thoughts! Thank you for sharing.

T. Dieter June 12, 2018 - 3:24 pm

I had another thought about why parents sometimes ignore/allow kids sitting on the couch engaged in social media – You know where they are. We worry when our kids are away from home, and when you see them sitting there – you feel they are "safe". Another false security, but one that we as parents don't always acknowledge.

Anonymous June 12, 2018 - 4:29 pm

This is an interesting post. Too much of anything can be a bad thing sometimes.

I do wonder where you feel that the blog world fits into this equation. Is your blog a form of social media. Do you think your kids appreciate (or will appreciate in their adult years) that their entire lives, the good, bad and the ugly, have all been not only documented – with pictures – but also shared with the entire anonymous internet world?

Do you feel that your blog exposes your children to negative scrutiny – and do you feel that is harmful – as harmful as other social media formats?

The slide you posted above saying that most kids have at least 2000 pictures taken of themselves by the age of two… does that ring true to your blog and pictures of your children?

I hope you don't erase this as a "negative" comment. I am merely trying to find out how you plan to reconcile your new relationship with social media with your blog.

Shawni June 13, 2018 - 6:15 am

Great questions. I have thought quite long and hard about it right from the beginning of writing a blog years ago. Would what I share take moms away from their families to read it? Would I make people feel bad? I often worry about the comparison trap. But in the end, I feel like people can make their own decisions (of course). To me, it's a great way to have a family journal and to share any parenting/gospel insights and "light" that I can. If it's anything other than that for any readers that come this way, I sure hope they will find something else that may light their way.

We all need to think long and hard about what inspires and gives us light. We're all different and will find it in our own ways.

As for your other question about my family, yes, this blog exposes my children to negative scrutiny because they read it and they read the comments often. I think it leads to some pretty great, positive discussions in our family as we discuss why people may say the things they say…everyone has their own story. As far as the content, the things I post about them, we talk about that stuff too and I always ask permission if there's anything at all questionable.

We talk a lot. They read a lot. And we're all pretty happy about this blog, so don't you worry about that 😉

And as for the 2,000 picture thing, I thought the same thing! I was going to mention it with that slide. What in heaven's name are any of these kids going to do with all these pictures! I'm sure they'll figure something out! I'm just glad they're not all selfie, kissy faces! 🙂 I will say that I sure wish I had more pictures of my day to day life growing up!

Lisa June 12, 2018 - 5:47 pm

Yes, Yes, YES!!!
Thank you for taking the time to post all of this information. I have seen the negative impact social media has had on my two youngest (now 19 and almost 18), who got phones in high school. I've seen the struggles my nephew has had with multiple suicide attempts. I use Instagram strictly to post positive messages for my children to see every day because I know they are looking at it and I want them to get some kind of "good" message daily.
Thank you again for posting this. I really appreciate it.

Lissa June 12, 2018 - 6:54 pm

I think Tabby raises some important questions for bloggers. So much exposure cannot be good for children/teen or their boundaries. You often mention that your kids do not always like to have their photos taken. I think it's important for kids to be listened to and respected. I'm your mom's age and am friends with a number of people who have kids in the 5-12 range and all have drastically limited photos and stories on FB saying that the kids have a right to privacy. I very much enjoy your blog but would encourage you to do some research about the effects of all this exposure. YOU choose to expose yourself, but kids can't truly consent to this.

Anonymous June 12, 2018 - 7:06 pm

Yes, and you also post lots of pictures of your children's friends. Do you ask their parents first?

Do you think that some of your less affluent acquaintances, church members, even relatives (or their children!) see your social media blog with all the travel, huge home, kids doing all kinds of cool, expensive things… and compare themselves and their families to you and yours? And become depressed (suicidal even) because they can't do or be like you and your family?

Definitely works the same way as comparisons on FB and IG. Maybe even worse.

Shawni June 13, 2018 - 6:23 am

If it does, I really hope they will not come back and that they will find something that inspires them and makes them happy!

Brent and Lauren June 12, 2018 - 7:28 pm

With so many negative comments on here, as a young mother I am so thankful for this blog. I come to learn, to be inspired and encouraged from all that you share. I don't know where blogs fit in the social media realm, but I am so thankful for them. The depth you take in explaining and sharing is such a gift. It is always difficult as parents to keep up with the ever changing technology and find the best way to guide our children. My oldest is only seven, so thankfully I have some time before she starts to ask about social media of her own, but I want to do the best I can to keep her safe and regulate all electronics. These conversations are so wonderful coming from seasoned mothers.

Anonymous June 12, 2018 - 7:32 pm

I would like to know why you consider anything said here as negative. No one said they did not like Shawni's blog. In the long post about some of the evils of social media that take up children's time and exploit their weaknesses, not to mention give them unrealistic things to compare themselves to… she did not address the elephant in the room, her own social media blog.

Why is inquiring, ever so politely, about this a negative thing?

Lisa June 12, 2018 - 7:45 pm

As a blogger myself, my blog is to document my life and my family history. Hopefully someday my children will look back on my blog books and have fond memories or the times we shared together…and all we have been through together. I think blogs are also a place to learn from others. I guess it is all about what a person is looking for– I am personally grateful for all Shawni shares on here. I may never get to experience a lot of those fun adventures, but it sure is fun for me to see pictures and get a glimpse of places in the world I otherwise would never see. I think it's great!

kms June 12, 2018 - 7:55 pm

With all available to kids on the internet do you really think they spend their time looking at friends moms blogs to see their classmates earning a sticker for going potty at 2? Especially when most their moms also post stickers for them when they pottied at 2? I don’t understand the privacy concern.

Lissa June 12, 2018 - 8:48 pm

Lisa: I think your children will enjoy seeing your family life, history and documentation. But they might like it better if it wasn't out there for everyone to see. Blogs typically start as a way to share your family story with other family, but somewhere along the line it can shift, in my opinion, to using the children and the family story for more. I think it deserves caution and respect.

kms: I agree we don't often think much about very young children, even with potty training. But it should be private. My children are grown–social worker and a physician; occasionally I used to post a picture of them from their childhood on a birthday and a few times I got some push back. They might have felt that it wasn't a good picture or didn't want it shared. I always ask now and very rarely post. Kids should get to choose. I don't mean to call Shawni out, but at times I have felt that she posts a back story that I would consider private: that Claire wet the bed, that Lucy was grumpy, that one of the other kids was upset about something. I think she does withhold a lot of information, but sometimes it leaks out. We worry a lot about kids oversharing in social media. It's easy for bloggers to overshare as well. I don't think anyone would like to have our kids running a blog about their parents.:).

Lisa June 12, 2018 - 9:10 pm

That's why my blog is private. I also come from an abusive background and I could NEVER deal with the critical comments that a lot of public bloggers get.

kms June 12, 2018 - 9:40 pm

Showing a kid picture while they are adults and could be asked first is different than posting it while they are the young age when it happens.

Jenny (also) June 12, 2018 - 10:10 pm

All 16 moms are white?!? That would never happen where I live in northern CA. I think some of the pressure to look and be a certain way or to keep up with "appearances" that you perceive as driven by social media are in fact contributed by the homogenous community you live in. If people come from different parts of the world, have a wide variety of physical appearances, etc the pressure teenagers feel to "fit in" would be much less since there is more than just one standard. (I know this to be true having lived in a less diverse area in southern CA, still nothing like what that photo represents!)

Also cracks me up that parents were so fascinated by hearing a real, live teenager talk about social media when they have their own Kids sitting in the couch at home staring their phones while their patents are at the seminar.

Jenny (also) June 12, 2018 - 10:16 pm

Love the 4 "healthy factors" slide. 100% true. And if we fill our kids lives with all that good stuff they have less time on electronics.

Julie June 12, 2018 - 10:34 pm

Just curious, is one of the Mums in a couple of the pix Becky Higgins, the owner of Project Life? It certainly looks like her.

I know she lives in Arizona too.

By the way, I couldn't cope without social media, especially Facebook.

Thank you for sharing your blog with us, I hope you never make it private.

Shawni June 13, 2018 - 6:34 am

No, I do not know her, but I've heard that she's great!

Thanks for the sweet note.

Tasha June 12, 2018 - 10:39 pm

Jenny, As a Northern Californian, I am amazed you looked at a picture of mothers and saw the color of their skin. I saw the smiles on their faces and the cute matching T-shirts.
As for the people who read this blog and are constantly thinking about the cost of the Pothiers' lifestyle, why? This is not a blog about things or travel. This is a blog about a family's life. The fact that we can infer their financial position is irrelevant to the topics discussed here. Shawn does not ever promote consumerism. She promotes strong family values through open and honest communication underpinned by great love. If she were flogging clothes or housewares or trips, sure, consider the financial equation, but she is most decidedly not.

Jenny (also) June 13, 2018 - 3:27 am

"I saw the smiles on their faces and the cute matching T-shirts. " yes, that is EXACTLY my point.

Anonymous June 13, 2018 - 1:47 am

And of course Shawni is MIA and not responding. I’d really like an answer FROM SHAWNI to my question above about how her social media blog might affect others.

Shawni June 13, 2018 - 6:38 am

Sorry there has been a lot going on today and I haven't been near a computer. Hope you found my reply above. Remember to be kind, love those questions when they are phrased nicely instead of feeling like they are attacking. Thank you for that!

Shelly June 13, 2018 - 2:28 am

Hi Shawni, I LOVED this post and I am wondering if you are okay if I share this on Facebook. I would never do that without permission, but I think your insights and words are spot on and give a lot of information to think about.
Thank You, Shelly Lutes (we corresponded back before Christmas about Advent. My current email is itsallboys@yahoo.com

Shawni June 13, 2018 - 6:38 am

Sure that is fine Shelly! I'd love to share these notes with anyone who could find them helpful!

Shelly June 13, 2018 - 3:25 am

I made my above post before I read the other posts. I am shocked that ANYONE would come to someone's blog and question their motives, opinions, lifestyle, family, decisions etc. I LOVE Shawni's blog and come here regularly to learn from her insights and wisdom as I raise my own family. Sometimes I have felt like I could "never" nurture a family like she has, but then I realize that it's not about money and travel; Shawni represents transparency, inspires and uplifts those who are in the trenches of parenthood, regardless of their socio-economic situation. I think it is time to remind us all the wise words of Thumper's mother in Bambi, "If you can't say something nice, DON'T Say nothin at all!" There are polite ways to ask genuine questions and there are others. Please remember that Shawni is an Amazing woman, from an Amazing family, raising an Amazing family and she is giving a gift to those who choose to accept the gift. If you don't agree with her or desire to point out her choices that you don't agree with, grow up and walk away. Don't read her blog anymore! Shawni and her family are a Beautiful example of Real Life and that challenges come to ALL of us!
THANK YOU, Shawni, I Learn So much from YOU!!!

Shawni June 13, 2018 - 6:43 am

Thank YOU for all your sweetness to build! Means a lot to me. Thank you for the love!

And thank you to everyone for the great comments here, wish I could respond to all of them. There is so much to think about with social media from so many different angles and perspectives, it's nice to learn from each other.

elle pothier. June 13, 2018 - 8:44 am

Bo's paw im dead. haaha love it mamma

heidi dressel June 13, 2018 - 11:33 am

I totally agree!! I’ve been here for YEARS and always feel uplifted, inspired and find Joy!

Mari June 13, 2018 - 3:29 pm

I love blogs SO much more than other forms of social media. I read yours, and Stephanie Nielson. I appreciate your ability to see the “butterflies and rainbows” despite the challenges that life throws at you, and yet, you are very open and real as you share your experiences.

I feel that blogs are a more detailed slower-paced story, whereas Facebook, Instagram, etc., are flashes of life-moment advertisements of hundreds of people, creating emotional whiplash, from an overload of fast-paced photoshopped life and information. I have always preferred the pace of blogs over other zippy social media tools. Of course, no matter the format, there will always be comparison — whether over the screen, or in real face-to-face life — but there can also be great wisdom and insight shared through media, such as blogs.

For example, even though our life and trials are completely different — my husband died, leaving me a widow with 4 children, at age 34 — I often learn from your unique insights and wisdom, as you face your own challenges. I have often been uplifted by a thought, quote, or idea you’ve shared. I also just love to see the beautiful pictures of your family life, and the places you travel, because I appreciate the time it takes to capture such moments and share them. You allow me to see parts of the world I may never see, and I love to see God’s creations! So, for me, I am very grateful that you are willing to let us into your life in such a way, through detailed thoughts and pictures.

President Nelson recently asked the youth to, “Stand out. Be Different. Be a light!” And I see you doing that here on your blog, in a glorious way. So keep up the GREAT work! Don’t let the doubters scrape at your courage. Take heart that you are making a positive difference in the world! Keep blogging, just as you have always done, because you are doing so much good!

Thank you for allowing me to read your life story as you are living it. You have inspired me many times over the years, for various reasons. You have made a difference in my life, and I thank you!

Thank you for sharing your beautiful light! 🙂

Suzanne Morin June 13, 2018 - 5:00 pm

Hi Shawni,

I have enjoyed reading your blog over the last few years. I am in my 20s and not mormon but really enjoyed your thoughts on parenting. I have tried to incorporate some of your ideas into my nannying and for future use if I ever have children of my own.
I feel a little mixed about online sharing, I do think social media has a dark side and that we have to be so so careful with what we put out there. Blogs while a form of social media they are more nuanced. I never feel that your blog exploits your children (as some blogs have a major problem with). I think parents need to be critical of what they put out there of their family. You come across as someone who tries really hard to find a good balance and are always striving to do your best and it's clear that your children's wellbeing is a top priority. So many interesting points in this post and in the comment section.

I will say that as a nanny I tried my best to focus on the fact that my time with the girls was a gift and I remember distinctly one day watching a show with them and I was on my phone I felt a voice inside whisper to me "this time is a gift." I put down the phone and pulled the youngest into my lap so we could have a proper cuddle and that thought has stuck with me. I am so glad I listened. My amazing girls were killed on Christmas Day. The last six months have been agonizing but I am happy that when I reflect back on most of our time together I know they got my full love and attention. I do wish I had documented more of our time together but have to remember that I was often too busy enjoying them in the moment (not that I don't still have hundreds of photos from the last three years but I so wish I had kept better written record of what they said and our adventures together.) Losing them has also taught me how important kindness is.

I guess what I am saying is please don't stop blogging and sharing your insight. It has already had a very positive impact on me as I tried to enjoy my girls in the fullest and "soak them in" as you always say.

I think your family will treasure that you've captured so many of those memories.

Best wishes,


Their mother has started up a scholarship at Chloe's school in memory of the girls if anyone would like to show their support:


Nicole June 13, 2018 - 7:48 pm

So sorry for your loss. I think that family was lucky to have you as a caring influence to them.

Suzanne Morin June 14, 2018 - 12:09 am

Thank you Nicole. I feel like I was the lucky one as they have been two of my greatest gifts.

Julie June 14, 2018 - 6:17 am

I'm really sorry to hear this.

Thinking of you & their family & friends at this difficult time. x

Shawni June 18, 2018 - 7:03 pm

Suzanne, thank you so much for sharing your thoughts on this. I am so sorry about the loss of these girls. I wrote a comment here before but somehow it didn't get published. Just sending some love!

Holly Decker June 13, 2018 - 5:27 pm

Thanks for sharing your journey. This powerful post has given great things to think about.

Karley Alleyn June 13, 2018 - 8:00 pm

Hi Suzanne, I’ve been a reader of Shawni’s blog for years, just like you. I am a young mama and elementary school teacher and I often use ideas Shawni writes about in my home and school life. I feel the same way as you described about time being a gift. We live in the same town:) I also know the story of the girls you nannied, and many of my good friends were close to them. Not knowing the girls myself, I still feel a deep sense of loss and sadness and I think about them almost every day. How lucky the girls were to have had an intentional and caring nanny such as you. Sending you peace and love in this time of grief. -Karley

Suzanne Morin June 14, 2018 - 12:06 am

Hi Karley,

Thank you for your kind comment. Victoria is so much smaller than it seems. Chloe and Aubrey loved school and adored their teachers so my heart goes out to any friends of yours who knew them. It really has touched our whole community. I really hope that this tragedy can create major change in the ministry and the family courts…that is what keeps me going. I have often thought about a post on here about beauty from ashes. That is what I hope can happen but it is still so hard as I miss them so much each day.

e June 14, 2018 - 3:38 pm

Shawni, I read your blog every day and I often feel bad that I don't comment at all! So I had to comment on this one!

Anyway, I think this social media question is such a good one, and something we all need to think about seriously. When I was a kid, we didn't have a computer until my senior year of high school, and even then it was the "family" computer and sat in the living room and didn't have an internet connection – so no worries about accessing questionable content there! But my best friend's family was an early adopter of technology and had good old AOL by the time we were about 14, and we definitely got into some situations online that we were perhaps ill-prepared for. I think kids in general, and teens in particular, feel like they know everything and therefore have a tendency to take risks that may or may not end well. It's our job as parents to help them navigate those risks. That doesn't mean we have to be completely overbearing about it, but we all at least owe our kids many, many discussions about what can go wrong with social media.

I feel like I'm probably a more laid-back mom than many others, and I don't believe that certain sections of the internet are necessarily off-limits to my kids, but I do want to be able to talk with them about stuff they see, or might see. I hope that I've laid the groundwork so that my kids will come to me with questions or concerns about what they come across online.

Particularly with regard to social media, I find that iceberg analogy to be so apt. We see the good parts of people's lives online, and rarely ever see the bad or just mundane. We see the crystal-blue waters of the beach halfway around the world that our friend is vacationing at, but what we don't see is the lost luggage, the cramped economy class flight, the "eating ramen and beans for three months just to afford the plane ticket" that went into saving up for the vacation. We see someone's beautiful house or fine furniture but we don't see a parent busting their booty working 70-hour weeks for a salary that pays for all of that. We see sweet photos of kids smiling in a picture our friend posts, but not the 75 other photos she discarded that show that kid picking their nose/writing on the walls/throwing a tantrum because they couldn't have the phone/you name it. And part of that, even for ourselves as social media users, is that no one really wants to document the struggle. They want to document the reward. But, just like that iceberg, there's a whole lot of struggle for that one beautiful moment.

I fasted from social media for Lent this year, and apart from sorely missing some spread-out friends who I really only keep up with through Facebook, I didn't miss it at all. I felt calmer, more at peace with myself and my season in life, and happier. I didn't worry if all my friends were hanging out without me, because I didn't know about it! I wasn't concerned with the Twitter stylings of a certain president not to be named, because I hadn't read any of it! It was really refreshing and freeing and, after the first few days of withdrawal symptoms, I hardly thought about social media at all!

Shawni June 18, 2018 - 7:05 pm

Thank you for this insight. It's interesting how we think we just HAVE to have this stuff and in reality, when we take a break we realize it's really not that important and is actually a distraction in a lot of ways. So tough to find a balance, thank you so much for your insight!

Shapiro June 15, 2018 - 6:25 am

Collin Kartchner grew up for a time in Gilbert, in Lindsey ward (my ward growing up)! I looked at that pic before I read your blog and thought "I know that guy, who is that? I know him!" and then read your title and it clicked. Nice to read your blog post and insights, thank you for sharing! I think it's kind of ironic and interesting that we blog and post and share and read all of these things on social media as well… I think "social media" can include anything that takes our attention to a screen for too long. I was thinking tonight as I went to your blog that I should really sit and be posting a journal entry on mine since I haven't kept up on an online journal since having my third child because "I just don't have enough "time." 😉 But I didn't… time gets sucked away in so many ways and it's so easy to shift priorities and give them up for a moment on screen. Even as I type this comment… Just a thought. I LOVED what Pres. Nelson asked the youth to do… a 7 day social media fast. “My first invitation to you today is to disengage from a constant reliance on social media by holding a seven-day fast from social media,” said President Nelson…President Nelson shared the story of a young man who had to give up his smartphone for a bit. At first, he panicked. (Can you relate?) But then, he was grateful. He felt “free for the first time in a long time” and loved being “free from the fake life that social media creates” and had much more time and energy to be outside, serve others, listen in church, and prepare for his mission. And he was so much happier.

Social media can certainly be a wonderful tool to connect with others and share goodness, but if you’re paying more attention to your Instagram feed or favorite YouTube videos than to the Spirit, it’s a problem.

“[The] downside of social media is that it creates a false reality,” President Nelson said. “Everyone posts their most fun, adventurous, and exciting pictures, which create the erroneous impression that everyone except you is leading a fun, adventurous, and exciting life. Much of what appears in your various social media feeds is distorted, if not fake.” (Watch “Things as They Really Are.”) So what should you do? Give yourself a seven-day break from the fake! You can hold your social media fast by yourself or with a group. The important thing is to pick seven consecutive days and don’t post or look at any social media. Sign out and see what happens!

During those seven days, pay attention to how you feel, what you think, and even how you think. What differences do you notice? When you’re done, think about the things you want to stop doing and the things you want to start doing." https://www.lds.org/youth/article/your-7-day-social-media-fast?lang=eng

Another quote/thought that comes to mind is from a talk by Richard G Scott, entitled "For Peace At Home"…https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2013/04/for-peace-at-home?lang=eng

I recently studied a talk that I believe so greatly coincided with the counsel given by Pres. Nelson… by Gary Stevenson. In it he said:
Now, for you young men and young women, I have considered three ways that you can “find the keys,” or use (the power of God) to bless your life and the lives of others… Here's the link… it's such a good read and feels like almost the exact same words as Pres. Nelson's recent challenge given to youth… https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2016/04/where-are-the-keys-and-authority-of-the-priesthood?lang=eng

And lastly, a talk and promise by Elder David A. Bednar comes to mind, from 2011…https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2011/10/the-hearts-of-the-children-shall-turn?lang=eng

Shawni June 18, 2018 - 7:07 pm

Love all these thoughts, and thank you so much for the links. So much to ponder and think about!

Shapiro June 15, 2018 - 6:57 am

I feel like texts take me away from "the present" constantly… and in general I think texting (though so helpful and often convenient!) have contributed to the "instant response/gratification" and "entitlement" issue. We want everything and we want it right now at the touch of a button. And why should we have to wait? My mom pointed out that texting is rote and emotion-less… so often we interpret everything texted by our own perceptions/personality, instead of what was intended/given by the texter… I think this works across the social media board… Kind of interesting to think about. Another example of that is feeling like you're one of my close friends, and yet we've only met a few times… a false reality. Would love to be "real" friends in person with you!! I guess that is the "blessing" and the "curse" of "media" sharing and receiving. I decided I'm going to take the 7-day "media" fast and include texting… (w/ a response to friends saying I'm on a "media fast" and to call me instead if they need me… I really am excited to do it mid June and see how my thinking is changed from just 7 days unplugged. I LOVE your blog… you share love and light. Please continue! The thought provoking q's are good and the discussion helps us all learn and appreciate. But you keep doing what you're doing… others have been blessed by your example. Thanks!!

Shawni June 18, 2018 - 7:08 pm

I totally agree. Claire doesn't have a ton of apps that distract her, but man oh man those group texts! They are crazy! So many distractions in life and so important to search for what really brings us the most satisfaction and happiness in the long-run!

Unknown September 29, 2018 - 3:28 am

That teen on the panel was my daughter. I am so glad she made a positive impression on you. I am so proud of her. Great blog post!

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